Robert Gruber - Spring 2012 Graduate Commencement

Uploaded by uwwhitewater on 23.05.2012


Thank you, John, for those very kind words.
And thank you, Jack, for your message.
I sure wish I would've rehearsed mine now.
Before I start my formal remarks, I would ask you to do
me a very quick favor.
And that is, if you would go to page five of the

bulletin, I guess it's called.
And please, for the love of God, tell me that I look
better in person.

Good afternoon, it is an honor for me to be here today to
celebrate the significance of your accomplishments, and on
behalf of the 12 high-quality graduate programs housed in
the four colleges here at UW-Whitewater.
When I was asked several months ago to be one of the
commencement speakers, I quickly and humbly said yes.
But then I couldn't help but immediately wonder if I was
qualified to give such a speech.
What advice could I possibly give such a talented and
unique group of individuals?
I mean, I'm just an accounting professor.
And in many ways, I still really haven't grown up yet.
I go to Disney three to four times a year.
I listen to Celtic drinking and rebel songs.
And I still consider Guinness to be one of life's
And then for all intents and purposes, let's be real, I'm
still in school and I'm 57 years old.
I eventually concluded that since I was asked to speak,
someone must've thought I had something to offer.
And so I prepared today with the gravity and diligence that
many of you prepared for your final exams and writing your
final term papers.
I started writing my speech last night about 11:30.
After playing video games for a few hours, I typed
"commencement speech" into Google, opened a couple of
cans of Red Bull, and then went to bed.
Seriously, I wasn't sure where to start.
So I began by listening to several commencement speakers.
I also read several articles that provide practical
suggestions on writing and delivering
commencement addresses.
In other words, I did what any good researcher would do, I
looked for material that I could plagiarize without
getting caught.

As an aside though, and mildly serious, I would highly
recommend listening to Ellen DeGeneres' speech at Tulane
University in 2009 and Conan O'Brien's speech to Dartmouth
University in 2011.
As two of the most outstanding--
I believe that I grew by preparing this particular
speech and coming across those two, they're very, very good.
The first suggestion that I read, though, said, make them
laugh a little, but remember that you are
not a stand-up comedian.
Well, no worries there because I'm terrible at remembering
and delivering jokes.
And most of my jokes, quite honestly, can't be told in
mixed company.
And by that I mean accountants and non-accountants.

Here's a couple to show you what I mean.
Did you hear the one about the interesting accountant?
Me either.
What do accountants call a Trial Balance
that doesn't balance?
A late night.
And what happens when you lock a wild hyena and an
accountant in a room?
The hyena stops laughing.

Second suggestion I found was do your homework, because
details are important.
So I found that there was, as of last spring, 30.4% of US
adults, 25 years and older, that had bachelor's degrees,
at least bachelor's degrees.
10.9% had at least a master's degree.
Now who but an accountant would quote statistics like
10.9 instead of around 11%, or about 11%, or
approximately 11%.
And I can see that my NPA students right now are saying,
he didn't carry it to five decimals.
A third suggestion I read was practice,
but don't sound practiced.
In other words, sound like you actually speak for a living.
A fourth and related suggestion was make your
speech thought-provoking, but not too much.
And I guess you'll be the only judges of that at the end on
whether or not I achieved that suggestion.
The fifth recommendation went straight to my original
concerns about whether or not I was qualified to deliver a
message, or if I had anything of substance to say to you.
Specifically, the fifth recommendation was be
inspiring, but avoid worthless cliches.
For example, one cliche is follow your dreams. I prefer
the phrase follow your passion, because the reality
is your dreams will be different in five years than
they are today.
And the reality is that your dreams when you started your
collegiate careers are probably different than they
were today.
But if you follow your passion that's very different than
following your dreams. I have no doubt that they will easily
define who you are, and you will be very, very happy.
Another example of a cliche is don't be afraid to fail.
And again, I agree with this cliche in principle, because
oftentimes I, and other people that I know, have learned more
from their mistakes than they have from their successes.
Oops, there's another cliche, isn't it.
But failing is never the goal regardless of how much you
learn, or how much you grow as a result of that failure.
If it happens, deal with it.
If it happens, manage it.
If it happens, you're normal, but learn from your mistakes,
and move on.
Finally, there's the cliche, go out and change the world.
Well, the world is a pretty big place.
I guess I'd prefer that it said, go out and remain true
to yourself.
Go out and live your lives with the utmost integrity in
everything that you do, including how you raise your
kids, how you treat your spouse, how you treat your
neighbors, how you go about your work,
wherever that might be.
I know this might sound weird, but let the world
take care of itself.
But if you live and behave with ceaseless, ethical
integrity, you'll be surprised what an impact you'll have on
your world.
And if enough people live that way, I have no doubt that the
world will be changed.
You know, I can only think of a handful of people who really
had a significant effect on the whole world.
Bill Gates might be one.
Steve Jobs might be another.
Mother Teresa might be another.
Aaron Rodgers certainly is in that category.

I want to apologize if you're a Chicago Bears fan and don't
understand what a professional football player is, but that's
Aaron Rodgers.

But the most important and useful suggestion I found was
this sixth one, and there are only seven if you're keeping
track, be personal and be relevant to the graduates.
I don't like this suggestion at all even though I knew that
it was true, because if I was going to follow this
suggestion, I would have to reveal something personal and
private about myself.
In addition to revealing something personal and private
about myself, I have to make it meaningful to you.
This isn't about me today, it's about you.
So I guess it's about time to explain the crutches and what
they may or may not mean to you.
In February 2011, I was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma,
which is a very rare form of bone cancer that doesn't
respond to chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
The only known cure is to surgically remove the tumor
and then pray for the best. "Pray" was my word, "hope for
the best" was the doctor's words.
I prefer to pray than to hope, and I
guess it's one of semantics.
So on March 14, 2011, I underwent a 15-hour surgery
with four leading surgeons and spent 40 days in the hospital.
As a result, my left pelvis, hip, part of my femur, most of
the surrounding muscle tissue were removed.
There's nothing over there holding things together.
I don't understand why the thing is still
attached, but it is.
I was quite active before my surgery, and I believe I'm
quite active now.
But I will never walk unassisted again.
Many people tell me that they are inspired, or motivated, or
have reset their priorities because of the way my wife and
I have handled our situation.
While I appreciate their kind words and prayers, I am
usually embarrassed to hear them, because all I really
want to do is to live a normal life.
Not the way things were, but the way things are.
Not my old life, but my new life.
Not the old normal, but the new normal.
So my approach is simple, and my advice to you, I hope, is
equally as simple.
Don't ever feel sorry for yourself.
You're the only person that spend 60 seconds every minute,
60 minutes every hour, you're with yourself all the time,
and there's nobody else in the world that will do that.
It doesn't do any good to feel sorry for yourself.
Love and cherish your support team to the fullest, you're
never going to know when you're going to need them.
Never, ever let your attitude and your behavior be
associated with the phrase, "that's good enough."
Walt Disney feverishly followed a concept called
"plussing." It means giving more than your customers paid
for, more than they expect, more than you
have to give them.
Mr. Disney's whole philosophy could be summed up as, get the
job done, but don't ever, ever sacrifice quality.
The highest grade you could receive from Mr. Disney was
when he said, that'll work.
In the early 1960s, the Sherman Brothers auditioned
for Mr. Disney with a couple of songs that they had written
for a new movie project of his called Mary Poppins.
The Sherman Brothers poured everything they had into those
songs, and were understandably nervous.
But during the audition, Mr. Disney sat unmoving and
seemingly distracted.
At the end, he simply said, that'll work,
and got up and left.
Sherman Brothers were devastated until the other
Disney executives crowded around them, slapping them on
the back, shaking their hand, saying, you boys have just hit
a home run, you're set for life.
They ended up writing more motion picture musical scores
than any other song-writing team in film history.
The last film that Walt Disney produced was Cinderella in
1959, because he spent the last eight years of his life
plussing Disneyland and designing Walt Disney World.
One year, he introduced a Christmas parade that cost
$350,000, which is about $2 million in today's economy.
The bean counters, and yes, he did call accountants bean
counters, approached Mr. Disney and said, why spend
money on a Christmas parade?
It won't draw people to the park, there already here, so
it's an expense that we can do without.
No one will complain if we dispense with the parade
because nobody's expecting it.
His response was, that's the whole point.
We should do the parade because no one's expecting it.
Always give more than is expected.
The seventh and final suggestion I read about
commencement speeches was this, keep it short.
Now had I done that from the first, oh, never mind.

So let me conclude with this final
missive to the 2012 graduates.
I hope you never settle for good enough.
I hope you always remain true to yourselves when the
circumstances around you are anything but normal.
And I hope you plus everything that you do.
If you do these things, I suspect that you will be happy
and successful for a very long time.
Go Warhawks, God bless you, and thank you for this